The Brain-Gut Connection Explained
The brain and the gut— two organs that are paramount to anyone’s overall well-being. Some believe the two work independently from one another. However, these two organs work in harmony, creating the brain-gut connection. In fact, did you know 95% of the body’s serotonin is stored in the gut, and only 5% is stored in the brain? That alone is a good reason to learn more about the brain-gut connection.
How Are The Brain And Gut Connected?
The terms “follow your gut feeling” or “gut-wrenching” are more than just a coincidence. With a vast majority of your “feel good” chemicals, or serotonin, living in your gut, it’s not surprising there is a strong connection between your brain and gut. Here at Birmingham Gastroenterology, we want to ensure you are educated on the capabilities of the brain-gut connection.
Serotonin In The Gut
Did you know the feeling of satisfaction, happiness, and optimism are largely due to a chemical known as serotonin? Healthline describes serotonin as a chemical that transmits messages between nerve cells and acts as a mood stabilizer. It also helps with other functions, including:
- Decreasing levels of depression
- Regulating feelings of anxiety
- Helping digestion
- Aiding in healing wounds
- Producing healthy sleeping patterns
- Maintaining bone health
Maintaining a healthy digestive system is essential because your gut produces a vast majority of the serotonin in your body.
The gut microbes have a much more significant role than just helping with digestion. The trillions of bacterial cells in your body also help control your immune system, and help control brain health, and to energize you throughout the day. According to the American Physiological Association, the brain exerts a powerful influence on gut bacteria. Some studies have shown that even mild stress can tip the microbial balance in the gut, which increases the risk of infectious disease. Diseases linked to gut bacteria include diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and obesity.
Inflammation is your body’s way of defending itself against infections, injuries, and toxins. Harvard Health found that chronic and low-grade inflammation in the gut can contribute to a number of conditions and diseases, such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. When inflammation is sustained for long periods, it disables the gut microbes, and your metabolism cannot run effectively. By paying attention to your brain-gut connection, you can decrease the likelihood of inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract, which in return, reduces the possibility of other life-threatening conditions.
Probiotics, Prebiotics, And Brain/Gut Healthy Foods
Now that you know a little more about the brain-gut connection, you may ask yourself: what can I do to have a healthier gut? Luckily, there are many ways this can be done. Probiotics help you to digest food and promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Some foods that naturally contain probiotics include:
Prebiotics are special plant fibers that aid in digestion by helping to grow healthy bacteria in your gut. Some foods that naturally contain prebiotic fiber:
Suppose you are struggling with getting enough probiotics or prebiotics. In that case, over-the-counter supplementation can help bridge the gap between what you are getting and what you need.
We get it— the brain-gut connection is complicated. Luckily, Birmingham Gastroenterology is here to help. A gastroenterologist is best equipped to diagnose the underlying cause of any possible gastrointestinal condition. If you are looking for ways to improve your gut health, or if you have questions about the brain-gut connection, do not hesitate to reach out. We have decades of experience treating diseases and disorders in all parts of the digestive system. Visit our website to make an appointment, or give us a call at (205) 271-8000.